On Sunday, officials reported that commercial vessels in the Red Sea were attacked by drones and missiles. The assault, which lasted several hours, was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. A U.S. warship in the area retaliated in self-defense.
This attack could signify a significant escalation in the series of maritime attacks connected to the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East. For the first time in the conflict, multiple ships were targeted in a single Houthi assault.
The Defense Department confirmed to The Associated Press that they were aware of the attacks on the USS Carney and commercial vessels in the Red Sea. They promised to provide more information as it becomes available.
The USS Carney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, has already intercepted several rockets fired by the Houthis towards Israel during the war. The ship was not damaged in the attack and no injuries were reported on board, according to a U.S. official who wished to remain anonymous.
The official also stated that the Carney responded to a distress call from the Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier Unity Explorer, which was under missile attack. The Carney managed to shoot down two drones during the attack.
The British military had previously reported a suspected drone attack and explosions in the Red Sea. However, they did not provide further details.
Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claimed responsibility for the attacks. He stated that the first vessel was hit by a missile and the second by a drone in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. He did not mention any involvement of a U.S. warship in the attack.
Saree warned all Israeli ships or those associated with Israelis that they would become a legitimate target if they violated the terms stated in his statement. He also identified the first vessel as the Unity Explorer, owned by a British firm with an Israeli officer, and the second as a Panamanian-flagged container ship called Number 9.
The Houthis have been launching attacks on vessels in the Red Sea, as well as firing drones and missiles at Israel. Another U.S. official stated that the attack began around 10 a.m. in Sanaa, Yemen, and lasted for up to five hours.
As the Israel-Hamas war threatens to escalate into a wider regional conflict, global shipping has increasingly become a target. The collapse of a brief truce and the resumption of Israeli airstrikes have heightened the risk of maritime attacks.
Earlier in November, the Houthis seized a vehicle transport ship linked to Israel in the Red Sea off Yemen. The vessel is still being held near the port city of Hodeida. Last week, missiles landed near another U.S. warship after it assisted a vessel linked to Israel that had been briefly seized by gunmen.
The direct targeting of Americans by the Houthis, which has not occurred for some time, further escalates the growing maritime conflict. In 2016, the U.S. launched Tomahawk cruise missiles at Houthi-controlled radar sites after the rebels targeted a U.S. warship with missiles.